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While not the most popular of events, The Surf Ranch Pro does have a lot going for it. Guaranteed waves, lefts, and rights, throngs of spectators, and the fact that it lies in a crucial point on the tour, post-mid-year cut, and with all eyes on the top five shuffles.

The negatives of this competition are constant repetition, long stalls, and tube rides that are more about precision and have less to do with guts or clutch moments. Even the constant air moves, the forehand and backhand rotations punctuating every heat, can get monotonous.

These factors open the performance level to possibly new highs, with judges looking for innovation and out-of-the-ordinary surfing, something you'd think would be commonplace on the epitome of perfection. Yet these stand-out performances are rare, and those surfers who comprehend the need and look for different moves at different sections are often heat-winners.

The venue itself is a far cry from Grajagan in Java. Still, the demise of that event, for several reasons, makes room for this standardized but critical tournament.

Understanding the requirements is intrinsic to big results here, and the Brazilian duo of Toledo and Medina have made it well known that they have pool surfing under control and surf within the paradigm that makes the judges glow.

With a one-year hiatus between events, however, the new crop of wild surfers is ready to show the world just what can be achieved on the perfect runners of Lemoore.

Filipe Toledo

A previous winner (2021), Toledo has everything in his arsenal to repeat the win and solidify his position in the top five. His small wave act is sometimes untouchable, and his conditioning for huge air moves on smaller waves is uncanny. Unlike the number one-ranked fellow Brazilian Joao Chianca, Toledo excels in the tiny surf and uses his lithe frame and highly-tuned Sharp Eyes boards, putting him in a very different place from most of the other competitors. His big-match temperament and relentless competitive drive complete a winner's profile.

Griffin Colapinto

A third place in 2021 was the indicator that Colapinto knows his way around the pool and that he has savvy enough to take a win here sometime in the future. Sitting fairly comfortably at 4th in the world right now, with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th positions all within 500 points of each other, Colapinto is in an excellent position at this stage to make the top 5 cut and a good result at Lemoore will cement this. His forehand air game is top-notch, but when he gets the opportunity to open up, his backhand airs can also be ludicrous.

Ethan Ewing

As his style matures into something unique and unlike any former world champion, Ewing has become one of the talking points of the Championship Tour and one of those surfers that bring the crowds. When he paddles out, particularly at a venue like Supertubes in JBay, no one will dare leave the beach in case they miss something spectacular. Affable and humble, Ewing has the components of a champion; they just need to be assembled now. In 2021 he missed a spot in the semis by .29 of a point. But, this year, he will stamp more authority.

Gabriel Medina

He has two titles under his belt at Lemoore, taking the win in 2018 and 2019 and a second-place finish in 2021. Still, the new and improved Medina has a few little niggling factors that make him a solid sleeper this year.

Medina has admitted to needing time off to deal with some issues in his life, and he does have a propensity for distraction. However, should everything be in place and his management, training, and rituals occur seamlessly, he'll be the man of the moment. His public support has grown immensely over the years, and so many people are willing him on. If he feels this energy, it could push him even further toward the podium.

John John Florence

You just never know with John John when the waves get mediocre. If it were Sunset Beach, big Margarets, or Bells Beach, there would be no doubt that he would be an absolute certainty to get a big result here. His surfing style allows technical moves to be exaggerated by big waves, gnarly sections, and loads of moving water. However, when the waves don't push back hard enough, it sometimes seems that he has a certain lack of cold, hard determination.

Having said that, if he finds his groove, is on the right equipment, and gets into that futuristic zone that he sometimes finds, it's game over for everyone.

Kelly Slater

It's impossible to write Slater off at this event. He is the surfer who has surfed more waves at the wave pool than any other surfer on the planet. He played a huge part in developing the wave, and he has also spent hours in the control room, understanding the technicalities of the wave. If there were to be another chance of Slater making a final berth, this is probably the contest with the highest odds.

He will spend much of the time in the tube, the place he is most familiar with at Lemoore, and it just depends on whether he throws in enough innovation to please the judges. This could be his swansong event, although he has had a couple of those.


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